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Despite sticker shock on a project where the cost estimates have nearly doubled, the Capital Improvement Project Oversight and Evaluation Committee is recommending the county council approve funds for design and construction of a multi-use covered arena on North Mesa.
The committee gave their thumb’s up during a meeting Tuesday night. It is not yet determined when council will discuss the recommendation.
Four different options and costs were presented for the committee’s consideration.
Anne Laurent, director of the Capital Projects and Facilities, said there were two options the applicants preferred.
The option most preferred, which the committee selected, calls for a 200-foot by 75-foot enclosed steel structure. There would be 25-foot by 25-foot covered pens on the east side as well as a single unisex restroom.
Laurent explained this option came with a higher price tag than previously thought. In the application for phase I study funds, it was estimated the project would cost less than $500,000. However, the new estimates reveal that the project would be $787,000.
There are several reasons behind the price increase, Laurent said.
The estimate from the phase I application was put together by citizens who were not well-versed in the various details to consider, Laurent said.
Initially, a fabric cover was considered but a steel structure was ultimately determined to be the best alternative for a long-term facility.
Additionally, she said there are costs to have the arena meet fire code, which includes having fire hydrants, as well as providing utilities to the facility.
She added at $52 a square foot, the project offered a “very reasonable construction cost.”
“It’s a large building and that’s what you need for horses to ride in an arena,” Laurent said.
The second option the committee was given was 200-foot by 70-foot facility. It did not include the covered pens but did have the restroom.
Laurent said that the first option was preferred due to its larger size. One of the main users of the arena would be dressage riders. Laurent described dressage as flatwork – “it’s like ballet for horses.”
If the arena is 70-feet wide, there would not be room for dressage and other horse riders.
CIP committee member David Shiferl asked how the arena would be used.
Laurent said it would be available for any horse enthusiasts. While the county would operate the arena, it could be reserved.
Sue Bargaloh, a citizen who attended the meeting, emphasized that the arena was not limited to a certain group of people. “A covered arena … is for everyone in the community,” she said.
For instance, the Los Alamos Dog Obedience Club was excited about the project, said Nancy Ambrosiano, a member of the Los Alamos Pony Club, which participated in putting together the application for design and construction funds.
Although it was argued that costs could be cut if the restroom was not included, the committee members were opposed to removing that from the plans.
Committee member Terry Goldman said with younger children using the arena, he couldn’t imagine not having a restroom.
The design for the arena is flexible, said Lisa Reader, a member of the Los Alamos Pony Club.
“We are really willing to go bare bones if that is what it takes to have this supported,” she said.
Joel Williams, a citizen who attended the meeting, offered some critiques to the committee regarding this and other capital projects. He said the CIP applications should include some sort of the timeline. He said he found it strange that a CIP project with such a low ranking from the committee during the study phase was now able to apply for the next round of funding.
Committee Chairman and Director of the Community Development Department Rick Bohn said the committee recommends CIP projects be completed in the order that they ranked. He added that although the CIP committee did give the arena a low ranking, it was the council’s decision to approve funds for a study.